Pedro de la Rosa has shared insight into a simulator session he experienced with Lewis Hamilton during their time together at McLaren, revealing that the youngster's skills opened his eyes.
De la Rosa is a seasoned veteran of working as a test and development driver, with most of his career spent at McLaren. The Spaniard carried out the role for the Woking-based team between 2003 and 2011, aside from 2010 when he raced for BMW Sauber.
It meant an overlap with Hamilton's tenure at McLaren, with the Briton signing in late 2006 and de la Rosa departing five years later.
De la Rosa and Hamilton therefore worked closely together in order to help the team work on set-ups and refine updates through simulator sessions. It was in one of these sessions that Hamilton underlined his skills, leaving de la Rosa suitably impressed.
Hamilton opens de la Rosa's eyes in the simulator
Speaking on the F1 Nation podcast, de la Rosa recounted the story of a particular sim session, which took place in the lead up to Abu Dhabi's introduction to the calendar in 2009.
At that point, Hamilton had already won his maiden F1 Drivers' Championship, but was having a much less successful year with a recalcitrant car.
Speaking about how quickly some drivers can adapt to new circuits, de la Rosa explained what had happened.
"I've seen Lewis adapt to new
tracks in the simulator, which is exactly the same approach as adapting
in the real car at the real track," he said.
"For example, it took me several runs to remember Abu Dhabi when Abu Dhabi was new in the simulator. I spent the whole morning just checking the graphics, learning the track, and setting up a lap time.
"I remember Lewis arriving at lunchtime. I had been several hours in the simulator [and] I was pretty happy with where I was and the circuit – everything.
"He jumped into the simulator and he said, 'Is the first corner to the left or to the right?' I said, 'Man, you didn't check the track map!', and he said he hadn't. I said, 'It's a left-hander, third gear left-hander'.
"After three laps, just three laps, he did exactly the same lap time as I did the whole morning! This is for real. I'm not really proud of it!"
Viewed by others:
De la Rosa points out what makes the likes of Hamilton so unique
With fellow podcast guest Damon Hill laughing and guessing that Hamilton had already had a go, saying the then 24-year-old would have wanted to "blow Pedro away", de la Rosa laughed and said: "Damon, be careful what you say, he didn't blow me away!
"He equalled my time, he didn't beat my time! We basically did the same lap time for the whole day."
De la Rosa pointed out that he could tell the big difference between himself and Hamilton was the ability to adapt to new circumstances and environments more rapidly than he felt he could do himself.
"It's just how fast they get to the limit," he commented.
"Under normal circumstances, I could match his lap time. The problem is, when the tyres degrade, when you have more fuel, when there is a bit of rain or it's windy at one corner, on what part of the track...
"Lewis will adapt faster. Lewis, Fernando [Alonso], Max [Verstappen], Charles [Leclerc] – they will adapt faster. That's where the difference comes from.
"You put a new set of tyres on, they will pick up the extra grip. It would have taken me two more laps, which is obviously when you're losing the peak of the tyre.
"It's the beauty of working with guys like them – they are really, really special."
F1 Podcast: Can fast but fragile Red Bull respond to Leclerc's charge?
RacingNews365.com F1 journalists Dieter Rencken, Mike Seymour and Thomas Maher look back over the Australian Grand Prix, where Ferrari's Charles Leclerc triumphed and Red Bull's Max Verstappen retired.